Earning a Master’s in Science Education Online

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The United States' teacher shortage makes now an excellent time to earn an online master's in science education. Professionals with this degree can work in education roles both inside and outside of the classroom. This article provides important information about master's in science education online programs, including program and application requirements, related careers, and financial aid opportunities.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master’s Degree in Science Education?

Master's in science education online programs attract practicing and aspiring educators for several reasons. Some people obtain this degree to earn a higher salary; many teachers receive automatic pay increases when they complete an advanced degree. An advanced degree also prepares students to work toward national board certification. This section outlines the benefits of this degree, admission requirements, and potential careers and salaries.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Science Education?

Pursuing Specialization

Pursuing a specialization prepares students for careers as primary school educators, secondary school educators, and nonclassroom educators. Nonclassroom educators may work in museums and other settings where the public learns about science. For aspiring classroom educators, an online master's in science education may satisfy their state's teacher licensure requirements.

Career Advancement Opportunities

In most primary and secondary schools, administrators need an advanced degree. A master's in science education can help prepare graduates to become curriculum specialists, who develop curricula for a school or district's science courses.

Online Learning Technology

In many programs, students can earn an online master's in science education at their own pace and view lectures at convenient times. Thanks to online learning software, such as Blackboard and Moodle, students enjoy meaningful interactions with professors and peers through online discussion boards and video chats.

Prerequisites for Online Science Education Programs

Below, are common prerequisites for online master's in science education programs. Requirements vary by program, so carefully review the prerequisites for prospective programs.

    • Work Experience: Some programs require work experience or a valid teaching license or credential. Even if your program does not require work experience, you should consider teaching before earning an advanced degree. Teaching experience helps you decide whether a master's in science education online is a good fit for you.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Many programs require scores from the GRE or MAT for admission. To score above 80% of all test takers, you must earn a 158 on the GRE or a 416 on the MAT. Scores are typically valid for five years.
    • Coursework: Depending on the program, you may need a bachelor's in a STEM-related field for admission. For most programs, foundational math and science courses during a bachelor's program are sufficient. Some programs accept applicants without these prerequisites, provided they take these courses during their first year.
    • Recommendations: Most programs require 2-3 recommendation letters. These letters should come from professors and supervisors who can speak to your professional and academic qualifications. Give your letter writers at least three weeks' notice to complete the letters.
    • Essays: Master's in science education online programs often require at least one essay for admission. These essays often use prompts that ask applicants to describe their professional experience and career goals.
    • Interviews: Schools conduct interviews — typically through Skype or phone — to determine whether applicants will succeed in a graduate program. Programs that do not mention interviews on their websites may still ask applicants to perform one.
    • International Students: Programs may require international applicants to submit TOEFL scores. International students may also need to submit their applications earlier than other students. Many universities use the WES evaluation system to review foreign transcripts.

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s Degree in Science Education?

An online master's degree in science education expands career opportunities and responsibilities. Greater responsibilities often command a higher salary than the average annual salary for all teachers in the United States. The following list outlines several careers you can pursue after earning a master's in science education.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Science Education Graduates

Career Stats Description

High School Teacher

Median Pay: $59,170

Job Growth: 7.5%

High school teachers typically teach a specific subject, such as English or math, but may also teach 1-2 electives each year. Other responsibilities may include leading clubs or coaching sports. High school teachers often mentor students and make appropriate referrals to counselors or social services.

Ideal for: Professionals who want to make an impact on the next generation.

Postsecondary Teacher

Median Pay: $76,000

Job Growth: 9.4%

Postsecondary teachers instruct classes, grade assignments, and mentor students. Additional duties include publishing original research, developing new courses, and representing their schools at conferences. Most graduates with a master's degree will only be eligible for work at community colleges.

Ideal for: Teachers who want to advance their academic field.

Instructional Coordinator

Median Pay: $63,750

Job Growth: 10.5%

Instructional coordinators work for schools or districts to create new courses and modify existing courses. They lead workshops to instruct teachers on the latest curriculum changes and approve new textbooks. They often observe new teachers and provide feedback.

Ideal for: Experienced, creative teachers who want to mentor new hires and improve curricula.

Nontraditional Careers for Master's in Science Education Graduates

Career Stats Description

Educational Consultant

Median Pay: $62,890

Job Growth: 10.5%

Educational consultants work with students, teachers, schools, and districts to identify problems and propose solutions. They often instruct teachers and work with students individually. They may travel to different schools to observe instruction and provide feedback.

Ideal for: Teachers who want to improve the nation's schools.

Survey Researcher

Median Pay: $54,270

Job Growth: 2.1%

Survey researchers conduct surveys, analyze data, and write reports for clients. Much of their job involves developing bias-free surveys and coordinating researchers and staff. They work in all fields, including education.

Ideal for: Analytical thinkers with teaching experience.

Research Analyst

Median Pay: $53,703

Job Growth: 23.2%

Research analysts study the data that survey researchers and other professionals produce. Their reports draw conclusions on the data and the research methods' validity. They often work collaboratively to ensure accuracy. Research analysts often possess advanced degrees and experience.

Ideal for: Experienced teachers with an academic background in business or accounting.

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale, 2017-2018

Paying for an Online Master’s in Science Education

Because the U.S. is facing a math and science teacher deficit, there are many scholarship and grant opportunities for teachers seeking STEM-related degrees. You can also save money on your education by selecting a program that charges lower tuition to students who study full time or take accelerated coursework.

Subject-Specific Financial Aid, Grants, and Scholarships

The following financial aid opportunities accept applications exclusively from learners majoring in science or science education.

What to Expect from a Master’s Level Online Science Education Program

An online master's in science education typically takes 1-2 years of full-time study to complete. This section outlines major milestones online students complete during their programs, common courses, and requirements to practice. Requirements vary by program, so you should research the requirements for all prospective programs before applying.

Major Milestones

  1. Choosing a Specialization

    Some master's in science education online programs require you to select a specialization before you start classes, while others give you until the end of the first semester.

  2. Practicums

    Most programs' first year includes one or more practicums in schools, summer camps, museums, or other places that teach science education.

  3. Student Teaching

    If you attend a program that conveys teacher licensure, expect to spend one semester during your second year as a student teacher. Student teachers work under a mentor teacher's guidance to develop lessons, teach courses, and hone classroom management skills.

  4. Certification Exams

    In your final semester, you will take at least one certification exam in teaching methodology and one in each subject you plan to teach. States require teacher candidates to pass these exams for licensure or certification.

  5. Capstone Project

    In your final semester, you may complete a capstone project in the form of a presentation, thesis, or both. Many student teachers perform action research, the results of which become their capstone project's focus.

  6. Apply for Licensure

    As you enter your program's final weeks, you apply for teacher licensure through your state's department of education. Requirements vary by state.

Coursework

This section outlines six common courses in online master's in science education programs. Keep in mind that courses with identical or similar names may have different academic requirements depending on the program.

Research Experience in Natural Sciences

In this course, students develop an independent research project. Depending on the project, the student may complete an internship, practicum, or thesis.

Curriculum Development

Students without teaching experience take this course where they learn curriculum development best practices, such as how to use backward design when developing lessons. Students planning for careers as classroom teachers should take at least one curriculum development course as many states require it for licensure.

Action Research

In action research, students design an experiment that they perform at their student teaching or practicum placement. These experiments often gauge the effectiveness of instructional methods. The experiment's results influence students' research essays or final presentations.

Evolutionary Biology for Educators

This course covers basic biology content as well as evolutionary biology instructional best practices.

Science, Technology, and Society

This course stresses science's history, including the role it has played in different cultures throughout history.

Licenses and Certifications

All public school teachers require a state-issued teaching license or certificate. Earning this license or certificate often requires applicants to pass one or more exams. You may also need to complete student teaching hours if your master's program did not include a student teaching component. Additional requirements to practice are outlined below.

    • Criminal Background Check: All public school teachers must pass a criminal background check through the FBI or their state's bureau of investigation. These background checks include fingerprinting at a police station or authorized facility.
    • Student Teaching: Once you pass a criminal background check, you can complete your state's student teaching requirement. Students working toward a primary school license teach in elementary schools; students working toward a secondary school license teach in middle and high school.
    • Certification Exam: Most states use the PRAXIS I and II exams to gauge teacher competency. The PRAXIS I covers core teaching knowledge, while the PRAXIS II covers content knowledge. Requirements vary by state; some states use specialized content knowledge exams.
    • State Licensure or Certification: Once you complete a criminal background check, student teaching, and certification exams, you can apply for teaching licensure or certification. With this credential, you can work as a science teacher in public schools. Earning additional certifications can advance your career.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations benefit students and graduates of an online master's in science education. Organizations offer members-only scholarships, career assistance, and professional networking. Members may also gain access to current research, job opportunities, and professional development resources. Many organizations offer membership discounts to students.

  • National Science Teachers Association: NSTA offers free resources, such as activities, lesson plans, and books, that member and nonmember teachers can use in their classrooms. Members enjoy access to the official NSTA journal and networking groups. Students receive discounted membership.
  • American Association for the Advancement of Science: AAAS is an interdisciplinary organization that includes members from all scientific disciplines. Membership benefits include a subscription to Science magazine, access to webinars, and discounts on hundreds of products and services.
  • National Middle Level Science Teachers Association: An organization for middle school science teachers, NMLSTA promotes science education best practices and provides grants to member teachers. All members receive an invitation to the annual conference.
  • School Science and Mathematics Association: SSMA boasts nearly 120 years of experience advancing math and science teaching methods. Members receive access to publications and the opportunity to serve in SSMA leadership positions.
  • International History, Philosophy, and Science Teaching Group: Promoting cross-curricular instruction and collaboration, IHPST provides members with access to publications and a free annual online conference. Student members pay less than 50% of the standard membership fee.
  • Association for Science Teacher Education: ASTE strives to improve the education that aspiring science teachers receive in their teacher preparation programs. Members receive a Journal of Science Teacher Education subscription and access to an exclusive job board.
  • National Center for Science Education: NCSEteach provides practicing science teachers with free resources, such as teaching strategies, lessons, and professional development opportunities. The NCSE website includes student-ready documents and activities detailing the latest discoveries in climate change and evolution.
  • International Council of Associations for Science Education: The United Nations created ICASE in 1972 to improve scientific literacy. ICASE provides conferences, publications, teaching tools, and links to U.S. science education organizations and resources.
  • Education -- American Chemical Society: ACS provides science educators at all grade levels ample resources, such as grants, scholarships, lesson plans, and publications. Teachers can also take short courses entirely online. Short course topics include technical writing and organic chemistry.
  • National Association of Biology Teachers: NABT members represent primary, secondary, and college-level biology teachers. Members receive teaching resources for their grade level and publications detailing the latest biology teaching best practices.